May is a magical month in the North Country, as early spring’s drab coat of thin, gray tweed is finally shed. April’s showers have worked their charms; a plush cape of green cloaks the landscape. Windows opened wide, we breathe deeply of lilacs and cherry blossoms, reveling in heavenly scented breezes. Eventually, flowering trees and shrubbery must give way to tulips.
Tulips are spring’s pride and joy, bursting forth in an amazing array. They may sprout short or tall with blossoms slender or fat, elegantly poised or ruffled and disheveled. They bloom in variegated hues, with stripes, flames, or fringe. They come in whites, reds, pinks, corals, yellows, purples; in so many shades of beautiful! Fully opened, some resemble peonies, roses, or lilies. They lend outrageous diversity in their brief display; gloriously intense, like the last few minutes of Fourth of July fireworks. Maybe that is why I love them so.
This weekend I enjoyed a brief girl’s get-away to Ottawa for the Tulip Festival. It is a longstanding tradition, celebrating Canada’s friendship with the Netherlands. Hundreds of thousands of tulips, artfully planted, blossom and bloom over nearly three weeks of event programming. The tulip meter indicated tulips were at peak. Spring’s tardiness would serve us well, it seemed. In the end, perhaps they were just a tad past prime.
We were hardly in the city 24 hours but we made the most of it. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Mama Grazzi’s Kitchen (delectable pasta), breakfast at Moulin de Provence (divine pastries), lunch at GuadaLaHarry’s (yummy sangria) and even the Ikea café. In between, we strolled Parliament Hill, shopped the Byward Market, crammed ourselves into the free shuttle to tulips en masse. We covered miles in bright sunshine with uninterrupted gab time, stopping frequently to capture a shot. It was a perfect break from the stresses of life. I came home exhausted and slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
On Sunday morning, my photos of tulips, tulips, and more tulips spoke to me in very simple terms. They reminded me that perfect is not required for exquisite beauty. That raggedy edges have a place, in the grand scheme. That a full-bodied form is just as lovely. That differences are to be celebrated; contrasts bring out the best in us. That to stand out from the crowd is admirable. That one of the privileges of aging is the opportunity to cross-pollinate and encourage the next generation. (Hmmm. Where have I heard that last one before?)
Spring sunshine warms and opens a tulip blossom just like God’s love warms and opens our hearts. Then we can receive his great grace. If only we were so transparent as these blooms, so welcoming of his tender mercy, soaking up his love. If only we were so trusting, no cares or concerns, awaiting his provision. But isn’t this the ultimate lesson of the tulip?
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. Luke 12:27
~ René Morley